“I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth. We need to be taught to study rather than believe, to inquire rather than to affirm.” —Septima Poinsette Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark (1893-1987) was an African-American teacher and civil rights activist who set up citizenship schools for disenfranchised African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. Here, they were taught to read and write so they could pass the literacy tests required by southern states to register to vote. The citizenship schools began to spread through the south, and were adopted by Martin Luther King Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1961. As a result, many began to take control of their lives and discover their full rights as citizens. Septima’s 40 years of teaching experience and her own struggles and triumphs of finding work as a black teacher in the south equipped her to design an education program that changed the course of history…and empowered many African Americans to take control of their lives and discover their full rights as citizens. She became known as the “Queen mother” or “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.